Readers of the Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette – I must admit that my subscription has lapsed – were treated to this article about Harry Secombe on 30 September 1954, shortly after the fifth series kicked off.
Moon-Faced Goon Marooned in His Bedroom
The guests were making a sedate approach to the first course on the menu in the dining-room as the little man in spectacles prowled round his hotel room above – TRAPPED and HUNGRY. Harry Secombe, the moon-faced Goon, hadn’t a pair of pants to his name.
He opened the window, took a deep breath of sea air, then closed the window again. A knock at the door.
Peeping out, he found his pianist Len Lightowler standing in the passage with a suit and dressing gown over his arm, brought from the theatre. Secombe’s other suit had gone the cleaners.
A few minutes later Secombe, the amiable bullfrog he prefers to call himself, breezed into the dining room with a carefree air.
It was just one of those things that have a habit of cropping up when the fun man is around.
Off-stage he is a natural phenomenon with the vigour of an [sic] kangaroo and the tendencies of an untrained chameleon.
[It’s at this point I’m reminded of Bill Bailey’s comment in response to one review: “That’s not a review, it’s biological field notes.”]
One minute he orders turtle soup with the grace and voice of a cultured impresario, then adds in broad Mancunian: “And don’t forget the shells, lad.”
Between turtle soup and a juicy steak he recalls the funny things that have happened to him – all his own doing too.
As a junior clerk in a colliery office, for instance, he had a bad habit of impersonating the boss and causing havoc everywhere when the boss was away. One day chaos was organized the Secombe way – only the boss, unknown to the tubby junior, was around.
There was a gurgled strain of Eccles, the immortal Goon, he re-enacted the inevitable trial scene. Secombe’s case for the defence: “Ahum…”
Even in the Army he was it, impersonating the voice a senior officer. Lance Bombardier Secombe addressed pair of Army boots protruding from under a vehicle: “Come, come, man, let’s not play games too long. I can see. Jump to it, now laddie, there’s a war to be won. Don’t leave all to dad.”
The boots and a body crawled into view. It was Harry's favourite subject of impersonation – an officer in the awful flesh.
“Secombe,” came the immaculate Sandhurst staccato, “I’ll punch your ******* head.”
Thay’s always been the Secombe way of life which could be summed up: “If I laugh it won’t hurt so much. I’ll be for it either way.”
The Goon, he explains, is a person who takes a thing to its illogical conclusion. Example: There are no bald-headed men in this world. It’s just that they’ve all got longer faces.
And Harry claims: “We’re all Goons at heart.
“Scratch a professor and you’ll find the Goon underneath. Eccles is the perfect example, a helpless innocent lump who can’t see wrong in a world full of trouble and wrongdoing. A Peter Pan character who never grew up – and is happier that way.
“We’ve found that the most ardent supporters of the Goon Show are learned professors and nuclear physiss... ss... phsss... you know, them lads what make things go with a bang.”
Another fan is his elder brother Fred, a minister (“He’s the black sheep of the family”). In those rare moments, however, when Harry is in serious mood, he can talk on a wide range of subjects.
He will talk about religion, literature and the huge library he has built up at his home in Surrey.
And then he's at it again, clowning, joking, and making himself happy. The Secombe view of life is: “I’ll succeed in spite of myself.”
Article sourced from the British Newspaper Archive.